Take the Road Less Traveled
we’re off the beaten path. Our guests think that is
one of the best things about our resort. Granted, we are
not for everyone. If you are looking for an ultra-modern
downtown hotel, that’s not us. We are proud to be a
vintage resort with a direct bloodline to old-time Door
County, a place where vacation memories linger from
generation to generation.
Rowleys Bay Resort is
situated on 100 secluded acres dominating a pristine and
undeveloped bay with 700 feet of Lake Michigan
shoreline, making it one of the most picturesque
locations in Door
County. Whether you prefer a
traditional room, suite, cottage or spacious
vacation home, you’ll find the atmosphere
here to be casual, relaxed and friendly.
Simply put, we offer Door County’s
affordable waterfront vacation experience
with an unmatched combination of activities
on Outdoor Activities
To the northwest of Rowleys Bay Resort lies the
Mink River, one of the few unspoiled
estuaries in the Great Lakes system.
Bordered by protected Nature Conservancy
property, the river flows through coniferous
swamps, a large marsh and empties into Lake
Michigan at Rowleys Bay. On a boat, canoe or
kayak trip, you’ll see blue-joint grass,
willow, dogwood, alder shrubs, bulrush, wild
rice, cattails, bur-reed, water lilies,
osier, dwarf lake iris and dune thistle. The
north side of Rowleys Bay is bordered by
Newport State Park, with Sand Bay Park
providing a southern border, accessible via
the resort’s five miles of hiking trails.
Birders can enjoy
four-season bird watching on the Mink River Estuary and
the resort’s never-frozen bay. An estimated 200
species pass through annually, including bitterns, great
blue herons, black-crowned night herons, sedge wrens,
yellow rails, northern harriers, marsh hawks,
blue-winged teal, loons, black ducks, red-breasted
sandhill cranes and bald eagles. On any given day you
will see a variety of birds using the bay as a landing
Bay Resort’s marina and DNR launch provide direct
access to legendary Four Foot Shoal, one of the best
places to catch trophy king salmon in Lake Michigan.
Other fish found in the waters include steelhead, brown
and rainbow trout, northern pike, perch, walleye and
small-mouth bass. The launch area also is a quick
getaway to Lake Michigan and the Mink River for aqua
adventures such as kayaking, canoeing, sailing and
If you don’t want to travel with all your gear, or just want to try a new sport, a variety of rentals are available just outside the resort’s front door. DC Adventure Center offers kayak tours, a 500-foot Adventure zipline through our forest canopy, and stand up paddleboard (SUP) rentals and tours of the Mink River. Seaquist Segway will take you off-road on a tour of our expansive trail system, and fishermen can hook up with Captain Tim Guckenberg and his Reel Addictions Charters. For landlubbers there is volleyball, tennis and basketball.
Full Service Resort Amenities
the largest waterfront resort in Door
County, Rowleys Bay Resort accommodates and
caters to the needs of a wide range of
groups. With our banquet hall, meeting
rooms, restaurant, bakery, pub, pool,
whirlpool, fitness room, game room and other
amenities all under one roof, families and
groups feel safe and connected.
Rowleys Bay Restaurant specializes in a variety
of all-you-can eat options for breakfast and dinner. The restaurant features
Door County’s longest buffet and salad
bar, providing variety, flexibility and
dining value. The restaurant’s
famous Sunday Brunch buffet includes
scrumptious treats from Grandma’s Swedish
Bakery and chef-carved prime rib.
Rowleys Bay Restaurant exclusive is the all-you-can-eat
fish boil on our Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night
buffets. Guests are encouraged to gather around as their
master storyteller spins the history of Rowleys Bay and
this tasty Door County tradition, while the fish boiler
tends to the flaming fire under the huge iron cauldron.
Timing is critical, so have your camera ready to capture
the dramatic boil-over. The freshly caught Lake Michigan
white fish is cooked with onions and red skin potatoes,
and served with as much melted butter as you prefer.
A great way to enjoy the beauty of Rowleys Bay is to linger over a cup of Door County Coffee and enjoy a sweet roll at Grandma’s Swedish Bakery. The bakery has tantalized the taste buds of Door County visitors and natives for 40 years with homemade pastries, decadent pecan rolls and other from-scratch bakery items. Family recipes have been handed down from generation to generation, ensuring visitors will receive the same authentic Swedish delights originally baked by Grandma.
Rowley’s Pub is our new cozy waterfront pub. Sip our signature Rowleys Bay Lemonade or pick from a wide selection of beer, wine and mixed drinks to enjoy at our waterfront windows. The décor theme is 50’s and 60’s water sports, reminiscent of vacations past. The outdoor veranda is perfect for those long summer nights.
Historic Rowleys Bay
Rowleys Bay area was inhabited by the
Potawatomi when Jesuit priest Father Andre
erected a wooden cross for his worshippers
on the bay in 1680. Remains of the cross and
stone steps leading to it were still visible
The northernmost cove on Door County’s Lake
Michigan side is named after Peter Rowley, a
curmudgeon of a man who searched for
solitude on a scale hard to imagine in
today’s world. If another settler pitched
camp a few miles away, it was enough to send
Rowley packing and searching for a new
homestead. Making his way up the Door
Peninsula in the late 1830’s, his last
stop was Rowleys Bay. Nestled between swamps
to the north and south and lake to the east,
he thought this spot was the antidote to
white man’s civilization.
reclusive and cantankerous Rowley did have two female
companions at the time, his wife Alice and another woman
thought to be a sister or mother-in-law. Rowley and his
women lived on Rowleys Bay until 1842 when they departed
again for more solitary grounds. Over the next 30 years,
the area housed a collection of lumber camps that pumped
out mass quantities of telegraph poles, railroad ties
and cord wood. In the 1860’s, Osborne-Cogswell, a
Racine, Wisconsin-based logging business built the first
dock to speed the shipping of lumber to market.
In 1876 New Yorker S.A. Rogers purchased the
dock and about 4,000 acres, much of it
swampland, from Osborne-Cogswell. He
acquired additional lands from Door County
for unpaid taxes, built a large sawmill, a
more spacious dock, a trading post, school
and other buildings to accommodate the needs
of his growing enterprise.
About the only
thing Rogers could not make money on was the
copious amount of cedars that were too small
even for fence posts. That hurdle was
overcome when he teamed with Milwaukeean
J.H. Mathews who was an expert at extracting
1892 Rogers traded a couple hundred acres of his Rowleys
Bay empire for a farm in Missouri, and after a
subsequent trade, the land fell into the hands of one
Ditlef C. Hanson from Tacoma, Washington. With the
timber stripped bare and land too wet for farming,
Hanson planned to build a townsite as he reasoned
Chicago was built on a marsh.
Although a spade of dirt was never turned, elaborate
aerial lithographs of Hanson’s Tacoma Shores were
produced showing a bustling town with citizens active on
the elegant boulevards. The artist rendering showed a
park, post office, library and other stately buildings,
and the lazy Mink River was seen as a flowing stream
emptying into Lake Michigan over a stunning waterfall.
Not surprisingly, some were hoodwinked into purchasing
lots sight unseen. When the new owners realized they had
literally purchased swampland, they abandoned the lots,
stopped paying taxes and the land reverted to county
Rogersí son Jay sold off much of the familyís land holdings in the early 1900s, with the final 367 acres purchased by grandson Clinton in 1947. Clinton had dreams of building a resort on the property, but personal tragedy interrupted his plans and the land was sold to Lou Casagrande in 1948 and Rowleys Bay Resort was founded.
After Casagrande and several other interim owners, the property was purchased in 1970 by Leonard and Alice Peterson who renamed it Wagon Trail Resort. Alice, who passed away in 1988, was the namesake of the resortís popular Grandmaís Swedish Bakery. The Petersonís daughter Jewel, along with husband Bob Ouradnik and Bob Czerniakowski, CPA, took over ownership in 2003 on Leonardís retirement. In May of 2010 the resort reverted back to its original name, Rowleys Bay Resort.